Celebrity Series of Boston presents
"Perfect voice, endless breath, sensual tone...Fleming is sheer perfection." Le Monde
"The American mezzo-soprano Susan Graham....has impressed audiences with her creamy singing and chiseled characterizations..." The New York Times
Renée Fleming and Susan Graham charm in a relaxed afternoon of French duets and songs.
Ms Graham greeted us with, "We are inviting you into our salon." And, indeed, we did feel we were in an intimate, warm salon!
Before intermission two of the greatest operatic stars of our era shared the Symphony Hall stage in a rare duo-recital in a program of Saint-Saens, Fauré, Debussy, Léo Delibes. Their voices blended beautifully in the duets.
Pianist Bradley Moore, who is Metropolitan Opera assistant conductor, played Debussy's "Clare de lune."
Then Ms Fleming sang two pieces by Debussy and Delibes's "Les filles de Cadix."
Both ladies wore black in the first half of the program. After intermission, Ms Graham came out in shimmering silver and remarked, "Two divas, four dresses....you get what you pay for." Her solo spot consisted of four songs by Reynaldo Hahn, one of her favorite composers. She sounded like a nightingale in "Le rossignol des lilas."
Then Ms Fleming returned and joined Ms Graham in the Berlioz duet "La mort d'Ophélie." They continued their duets with Messager's "Blanche-Marie et Marie- Blanche," Offenbach's well-known "Barcarolle," and Léo Delibes's "Duo de fleurs."
At one point Ms Graham informed us that this was a live performance, alluding to Beyoncé's recent lip-synching our National Anthem at President Obama's inauguration festivities.
Promising that we would get out in time for the Super Bowl, the two luminaries rewarded the enthusiastic and appreciative audience with four encores.
The first was a duet "Ah, guarda, sorella" from Mozart's Cosí fan tutte.
Dazzling and elegant, Ms Graham accompanied herself on the piano to sing "La Vie en Rose," in an endearing rendition of the Piaf classic.
Ms Fleming's encore solo was "Malheureux qui a une femme" from the Chants d'Auvergne.
They ended their sold-out recital with a duet from Humperdinck's Hänsel and Gretel.
Their performance was sheer joy. Indeed, the lively, playful banter and palpable chemistry between the two friends and colleagues added charm and a certain je ne sais quoi. The entire afternoon had the feel of a small cabaret show...from a time very long ago.
The weather was cold, wet, raw, snowy. However, we had a fantastic day: the delightful Renée Fleming and Susan Graham recital at Symphony Hall in the afternoon, then a quick dinner at the Bistro Ritz around the corner from the Opera House, where we attended the early evening performance of the musical comedy Sister Act, which was not intellectually stimulating, but lively and funny...at times I laughed so hard the tears rolled down my cheeks.
Yes, indeed, it was a fantastic day!
Review by Jeffrey Gantz for the Boston Globe--